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I would like to share a story that has recently come to my attention and one that really pulls at my heart. It just so happens this is happening in Michigan, but things like this are happening all over the US. I am posting it here instead of the “other” blog, because I haven’t kept up with the other and because I know that most of our readers are hunters and have the same dream of living this type of lifestyle.
If you know me and have followed this blog for any length of time, you may know all the reasons that I did this crazy thing of picking up and moving 14-hours away from my home. I moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to be closer to more public hunting opportunities. I also wanted more land with which to begin living a more self-sustainable life. More property, more privacy and seclusion, and nearer better upland hunting opportunities in my beloved Pennsylvania is currently out of our reach. I wanted more land for working the dogs. And I also wanted to grow and raise our own food–real food (if you can’t pick it, grow it, or kill it, it isn’t real food) and real food not laden with pesticides and hormones. Healthy grass-fed (not grain) meat that we raise ourselves or obtain via hunting and fishing, etc. I feel most health problems are caused by the lousy, so-called “food” we consume. I believe it with every ounce of my being as I’ve experienced it with my health (horrible, horrible allergies) and that of my daughter (now cancer-free for a year by the way!), and the health of our Llewellins.
Jessica Hudson has a similar dream and because of her family’s severe food allergies, she sought to buy her dream home in the country. She wanted to live a more sustainable lifestyle with some property to raise her own food–goats for milk, healthy pork, rabbit, soy-free eggs, etc.
After finding a potential homestead, Jessica called the township to be sure her homesteading plans would be allowed. She was told what she wanted to do was allowed. They signed the papers and bought their dream. They moved in August 2012. Bought their 2 pot-bellied piglets and 8 chickens. In October, they got 3 goats. They worked hard. They enjoyed it and for the first time were enjoying eggs without reactions; fresh goat’s milk was in sight; fresh, healthy, pastured pork and rabbit was in sight!
In November, she received a certified letter from the township stating she was in violation of township zoning ordinances. It stated that farm animals were not allowed in their zone!? They had 10 days to remove the animals! She went to the office to talk them. At the meeting, she was told that no farm animals were allowed and that it was impossible that she had cleared it with them before buying the house. It didn’t matter that pot bellied pigs or mini goats are considered pets in many parts of the country. It didn’t matter about her kid’s allergies. But, as it turned out, her kids are in 4H, so she was told all she needed was a letter with a timeline for the 4H project and all should be fine.
She wrote the letter and when she went to hand-deliver it, she was met by the supervisor who told her that she had been (again) mistakenly informed and 4H farm animals are not allowed and would have to be removed!
She was invited to the next township meeting at which she could request the possibility of changing the zoning as just 3 lots from her, the city of Williamston had just changed its ordinances to allow any farm animal, including ostriches, cows, and even horses.
She did the work, writing letters outlining her children’s terrible allergies; spoke with each of her neighbors and had them sign letters saying they had no objection to Jessica’s animals; she outlined a plan with specific numbers of each animal, the length of time each animal would be there; her plans to be GAAMP compliant, she researched city ordinances including Lansing’s efforts to allow urban goats in densely populated areas, other cities such as Denver that allowed such things and flourished for it. She bombarded them with information and spoke at the board meeting. The following week she received another letter saying she must remove the animals!
Jessica felt no choice but to contact the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which defends the rights of small farms. They described to her the Buchler case they had just won in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that was nearly identical to hers. It says that if you are a farm, commercial in nature (meaning you sell something, anything, such as eggs or rabbits, or intend to do so, as is evident from signage or internet ads, like the ones Jessica has for her rabbits) you are protected by Michigan’s Right-to-Farm Act, which supersedes local zoning ordinances. They sent a letter to the township informing them of such, along with the case law set by the Marquette family that had just spent years fighting their township.
The short version of this story is that Williamstown Township is still refusing to budge even though they are clearly violating Michigan’s Right-to-Farm Act and a legal battle is ensuing.
The family is trying to raise 20,000 dollars for a legal defense fund. The hope is the township will back down when they realize they cannot win. And if that happens, Jessica has already agreed to make any money raised available to others who have to fight a similar fight. To pay it forward.
Jessica’s dream is the same of millions of Americans. This family is trying to live a healthy life. They are trying to take responsibility for their own health by eating right, raising their own food, and working hard. They called the township before purchasing their dream. They were lied to.
If you are someone that has–or is living–the same kind of dream, perhaps you might:
- Take a few minutes read the whole story:
- Read the story published in the Lansing Journal: Woman in a standoff with township over her farm animals
- Read Jessica’s story on her site.
- Read the story and how to help on the TSP Community Website
- Consider donating–even $5–to help Jessica in her legal battle.
- Visit Sweet Peas Farm on Facebook and read all about the support they are receiving and how you can help.
Thanks for listening.